Greetings to the Clue Community!

Hello again everyone!   Happy March.

Daylight’s Savings Time begins on March 10th and spring is just around the corner (at least here in the northern hemisphere).  How quickly time flies, huh?

The Case for Treasure Hunts:  For staff members who have been cooped up in the office all winter, spring sunshine means Treasure Hunt Season.  What better way to get out and about in your local neighborhood than by sleuthing the area for its little-known details:   an intriguing sign, an imposing statue, a hidden plaque, an old, faded advertisement on a red, brick wall, a cardboard cut-out of Clint Eastwood in an Italian butcher’s shop (true location)… the opportunities are endless.

Dr. Clue New Orleans French Quarter treasure hunt scavenger hunt for corporate team buildingDr. Clue Orlando Universal Studios theme park treasure hunt scavenger hunt for corporate team buildingDr. Clue Stanford University Palo Alto campus treasure hunt scavenger hunt for corporate team buildingDr. Clue Geneva Switzerland Old Town treasure hunt scavenger hunt for corporate team buildingDr. Clue Greenwich Village New York City treasure hunt scavenger hunt for corporate team building

Along with the Eureka Moments — outside, in the fresh air — treasure hunts are surprisingly relevant to your work life.   Unlike ropes courses, river rafting and other more physical, “recreational” team building activities, a well-constructed treasure hunt is decidedly “white collar” in nature. During a hunt, your goal is to Think and Problem-Solve as a team, putting your heads together to perform brain-oriented projects.  A well-constructed treasure hunt asks participants to analyze data, look for patterns, think laterally, and delegate personnel according to skills and knowledge.   Although there’s a physical element to consider (you have to walk to each clue location), the real key for a successful hunt experience is processing data as efficiently as possible, employing careful role division, strategy, vision and tactics….all the skills we draw on everyday to get work done in the office.

Are you ready to team-build with a purposeCheck out Dr. Clue’s 120+ treasure hunt locations, worldwide, or ask us to create a new hunt for you from scratch.  It’s not to early to think about dates for the summer/fall either!  The snow is melting; let the hunt season begin!


In today’s issue of the Dr. Clue newsletter, we’ve got 3 more tricky puzzles to solve, an icebreaker that will help yo put together the pieces, and an article that answers the question:  is competition a bad thing.   Enjoy!Dave Blum
Editor, Dr. Clue Icebreaker Newsletter

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Frame Games

Last issue, we gave you these three tricky puzzles to solve:

Thanks to everyone who sent in a solution.  The correct answers were:

1) Are you ready yet
2) Off on a tangent
3) Vanishing point

Alas, we had NO correct puzzle solvers this week.  Time to pick it up, folks!


This week you’ve got three more puzzles to unlock!  Let’s see who can get them all the fastest and be named the “F2S” (first to solve).

Email me your answers to me ASAP at:

Good luck!

And don’t forget to check out our DIY Treasure Hunt Store: the low-cost way to transform ANY area into a team-building adventure


This Week’s Icebreaker

Picture That
This exercise is a simple team-work idea, adaptable for any group size and any ages.

Duration is half an hour or longer if you increase the complexity for big groups, and/or increase the size of the work.

Choose a well known picture (or diagram or cartoon) – ideally one well-known and full of detail.
Here are some suggestions of well-known pictures to use for this exercise:

Sunflowers (Van Gogh)

Venus and Mars (Botticelli)

The Hay Wain (Constable)

Bathers at Asnières (Seurat)

London Underground Tube Map

The Bayeux Tapestry (lots of work there..)

These are just examples.  Choose a picture (or diagram or map, etc.) that appeals to your group:  one which, when cut into pieces, gives sufficient detail to work on.

Next, cut the picture (retaining a copy for yourself) into as many pieces – ideally equal squares or oblongs – as there are participants for the exercise.

Issue each person a piece of the picture. Do not let the group see the whole, original picture until the end of the activity.

Instruct people to create a copy of their piece of the picture exactly, only ten times bigger, according to length and width dimensions.

Make sure to be very specific regarding what “ten-times bigger” actually means, as different interpretations of this could spoil the result (which is a lesson in itself about consistency of planning and communications, etc).

(Note:  Multiplying width and length dimensions by ten produces an area which is actually a hundred-times bigger in area. This seems a lot, but it’s very reasonable if seeking to produce a good-sized result to stick onto a wall. For example, if individual pieces are say 2 inches square, i.e., 2 x 2 = 4 square inches, the instruction of ten-times width and length would produce individual pieces of 20 x 20 = 400 square inches which, when all assembled, can produce quite a large wall-display. Technically ‘ten times bigger’ refers to area, but this isn’t very easy to imagine – it’s easier to plan and explain the exercise in terms of width and length dimensions.)

Issue pencils/drawing/coloring equipment and paper (big enough sheets); be sure that rulers are available for measuring.

Give a time limit (5-20 minutes depending on complexity of the work and the magnification level you specify).

When all the enlargements are completed, ask people to assemble them all into a giant copy of the original picture – on the table, or onto a wall using sticky putty, (be careful not to use a wall whose surface could be damaged when removing the sticky putty).

Review points:


  • If the assembled, “big” version of the completed picture is off for some reason, where did the task fail and for what reasons?
  • If anyone has embellished their particular piece (which almost certainly will happen) how does this augment or threaten the final result, and what does this teach us about local interpretation and freedom?
  • The activity demonstrates divisionalized ‘departmental’ working – in other words, each person represents a team or department working on their own part (representing specialisms), all of which contribute to an overall group aim and result. What are the main factors determining success for working like this?
  • Does each individual person (representing a team or department) necessarily need to know what other people are doing in order for the overall task to be achieved?
  • Does each individual person necessarily need to know what the end aim is in order to achieve the overall task?
  • What level of mutual understanding and checking in (while the task is in progress) is useful for this sort of ‘departmental’ or divisionalized working? Is there a fixed rule for the checking-in progress?

The Point:  Often in work situations like this, communicating the overall aim or vision is difficult or not viable — especially in large, complex projects, spread out geographically.  The question is, how should we approach this challenge and what are the implications, especially if a vision or aim changes half-way through a project?

In the case of the exercise above, the resulting assembled/whole picture will indicate how well each team communicated and managed its own divisionalization of the task.  Imagine the result if teams could see the whole picture from the beginning.

(with thanks to )

———————————————————————-Featured Article

Should Games be More (or Less) Competitive
By Dave Blum

There’s a popular social movement in schools these days, compelling teachers and coaches to minimize competition on the playground while increasing collaboration.  It’s gone so far that one school I heard about even removed the scoreboard from their high school football field, insisting that keeping score put too much pressure on the students and inflated the competitive element, reducing self-esteem.

This type of thing begs the question:  Is competition all bad — or none of it — or just some of it?

Although the answer to this question is complex,  I think it’s worth noting that not all games are equal; in truth, some games are designed to be more competitive than others.  Consider the classic board games.  In chess, for example, you find a classic “zero sum” activity; in order for one person to win, he must compel the other person to lose.   The vast majority of two-person games are set up this way, as a personal battle of wits and wills.  Winning is a “successful” outcome; losing is an “unsuccessful” one.   In chess, where there’s no actual scoring, it can be difficult to measure your progress and mastery.   About all you can say to yourself in a losing effort is, “I stayed alive a little longer this time.”  In other two-person games, by contrast, scoring is built into the activity, increasing your ability to assess personal progress.  For instance, in cribbage you can see exactly how many points it will take you to win; you can measure by how many points you’ve won or lost.  As analyzing your success is more manageable, you can console yourself in a loss with, “Well, at least I’m getting closer; I only lost by 15 points that time.”

Multi-player games are no different.  Some games are zero sum (you either win or you lose), while others allow you to rate your progress by the toting up of points and keeping score.   Scrabble, for example, is zero sum in the sense that there is one winner and everyone else is a “not winner”.  Because there’s a final score, however, you can keep track of your own personal milestones and continually strive to get better, improving your metrics after each round.   You might say, “I lost, but at least I got a 300 that time, only 20 points below my all time high.”

One phenomenon you sometimes see in multi-player games is the “piling on” syndrome.   Consider the game of Risk.  The status of your assets (armies) is always transparent.  Nothing is hidden.  Since no one wants a particular player to get too far ahead (making a personal comeback impossible), what often happens is that everyone gangs up on the front runner.   “She’s getting too far ahead–let’s all work together to bring her back to the pack.”   Not very pleasant if you’re the one in the pole position!

Although far outweighed by the sheer number of competitive games on the market, a few collaborative board games do exist.  One of my favorites is Pandemic, a game which casts you in the role of a CDC (Center for Disease Control) researcher endeavoring to stop a world-wide disease epidemic.  Significantly in Pandemic, you work together with the other researchers (not against them), both to find cures as well as to stem the flow of the outbreak.  The common enemy is the pandemic.  If you discover the cures, you all win; if the world becomes consumed by the contagion, you all lose.  Other similar collaborative games operate with this “all for one” team ethic, games like “Forbidden Island” and “Break the Safe”.

But is a collaborative game as “fun” as a competitive one?   Do you receive as much “benefit”?  It all depends on what draws you to games in the first place.  For some of us, working together to stop a collective evil (like in Pandemic) is a real adrenaline rush.  For others, the fun derives from pitting yourself against the mind of an actual player.   And for still others, the enjoyment has little to do with the other players at all; like in solitaire, your goal is simply to improve your skills (as reflected by higher points and improving scores).

Myself, I don’t see competitive games as a bad thing.  As described above, there are just so many different types of games out there, all of which carry their own distinctive virtues (and pitfalls).   At their best, games force you to exercise your wits; they challenge your ability to design tactics and execute strategy. In many ways, games are the antithesis of passive activities like watching TV.  While playing a game, you need to be active!  You have to think.  And more often than not, you also have to interact and communicate with another person, in real time (we’re talking about board games today, not video games, which are different kettle of fish).

The major trap of competitive games is their ability to inflame your insecurities.   For a person with low self esteem, winning and losing can become something very personal.   How many times, for instance, have we all seen a losing player “cross the line”, bombarding the other players with inappropriate behavior, crass language and poor sportsmanship?  In short, he’s losing, he doesn’t like how that makes him feel, and so he tries to “kill the messenger” (his opponent), the person who has made him feel this way.

Most especially for today’s kids, I believe the key — no matter the game– is to emphasize the personal takeaways.  You might ask, “What did you learn about yourself today?  What did you learn about others?  What skills did you develop?   And what might you work on next time around.”   In the end, there are no winners or losers in games:  just areas for growth and learning.

As always, thank you for being a part of the Dr. Clue Community!

Dave Blum, Editor, The Dr. Clue Friday Icebreaker newsletter

Feel free to contact us at 707-566-7824 with your thoughts and comments,
or email Dave personally at